Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
Currently A Taste of Broadway is running at the Lakeside Little Theatre, and consequently my review of the show will not appear till the beginning of April. This month I am able to indulge in personal nostalgia for some of the excellent plays and musicals I have enjoyed at LLT over the past 10 years.
There have been so many memorable evenings – it’s hard to pick out only a few. Certainly Doubt was one of the best plays to appear on the Lakeside stage in recent years. Cleverly written and very well acted, the dramatic force of the play left the audience with much to think about and discuss. Sister Aloysius thinks that there is a danger to a Catholic school, because of a popular priest’s ambiguous relationship with a troubled student. She may have to be prepared to lie for the greater good - or perhaps she deceives herself as to what is good. The play asks many questions, making us examine our own preconceived ideas, and finally leaves us in a turmoil of doubt.
An Inspector Calls, from 2004 was also very good – though perhaps I am biased because I acted in the play. It’s a morality play by the English playwright J.B.Priestley, and it poses the age-old question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In the play, the older generation is mostly concerned with maintaining outward appearances, while the younger people ask deeper ethical questions. Although the play was written in 1944, Priestley places the action in 1912, giving an added poignancy to the smugness of this typical British family. We know – what is unknown to the characters in the play – that they are standing on a precipice. Soon the Titanic will sink, the First World War will begin, millions will die and horror will be unleashed on the world. And Priestley suggests that a ruthless and uncaring society will be doomed to failure.
There have been countless entertaining comedies and farces, including Caught in the Net from 2006, and last year’s production of Blithe Spirit. But the recent show How the Other Half Loves was undoubtedly the cream of the crop. My recent review will serve to remind you of my admiration for this excellent comedy – I will simply add that this production could easily match anything on Broadway or London’s West End.
Over the years, I am sad to say that few murder mysteries have been performed here. In this category, I enjoyed Agatha Christie’s The Hollow, which was performed in 2009. The country house atmosphere and staging were very well done, and there was a clever twist to the plot though naturally Hercule Poirot was not deceived. Perhaps because I am British, I enjoy a clever murder mystery with devious clues and red herrings, and a surprise denouement at the end. In my opinion, Witness for the Prosecution was Agatha Christie’s best play, and perhaps one day it will be performed at LLT to the delight and surprise of paying customers.
Finally, the musicals! I cannot begin to talk about the wonderful musicals without mentioning the amazing Anya Flesh. She was a hard task mistress, and she got results. Perhaps Quilters and Cabaret were her finest achievements, although it is hard to choose from among so many entertaining evenings of musical theater. I particularly remember the stunning ending of Cabaret, with the audience left in darkness and no curtain call.
And so – onward and upward! We are fortunate to have so many talented and hardworking directors, actors, stage managers and backstage people in this town. I look forward to many more memorable evenings at the Lakeside Little Theatre.